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Wednesday October 16 2002
She Caribbean Magazine OnlineTropical Traveller Magazine Online

Dolphin Fantaseas or Dolphin Fallacies?

Opponents of the Dolphin Fantaseas proposal wish to keep dolphins in the wild

During the sixties, I captured and trained dolphins for the Miami Seaquarium, including the five dolphins that played the role of “Flipper” in the American TV series of the same name. I have witnessed firsthand the suffering imposed on dolphins during the violent capture process and their subsequent lifelong confinement. I made a lot of money as a dolphin trainer but chose to leave this business because, after realising what we were doing to the dolphins in the name of profit, my conscience wouldn’t have it any other way.
Since Earth Day 1970, I have worked to educate the public to what really goes on behind the glittering surface of the captive dolphin industry. Today, I work with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), an organisation dedicated to stopping the traffic and commercial exploitation of dolphins worldwide.
Ironically, Dolphin Fantaseas is telling the public and the media that they capture and confine dolphins because they want to teach people respect for nature! This is the deception and hypocrisy that the dolphin captivity industry is based upon. The capture and confinement of dolphins does represent a form of education, but it’s a form of bad education in that it teaches the public that destroying wildlife in the name of profit is acceptable.
St Lucia already has a dolphin watching industry in place. If the tourists that visit your lovely island want to see dolphins and get a real education about the complex lives of these animals—as opposed to a distorted dolphin fantasy—they have the unique opportunity to do so, in a respectful, non-invasive manner.
Having captured and trained dolphins in the past, I know exactly where the people at Dolphin Fantaseas are coming from. I used to come from the same place. In consequence, I know that Dolphin Fantaseas will never be able to tell the public the truth about the capture and training of dolphins. If they did, the people of St Lucia would revolt against it. They would demand that Dolphin Fantaseas leave their dolphins alone.
The commercial success of Dolphin Fantaseas is contingent on making the public believe that the captures of dolphins are humane, and so are their lifelong confinement and commercial exploitation. But there is no such thing as a “humane dolphin capture.”
In fact, I would be curious to know just how Dolphin Fantaseas intends to explain to the public how these powerful, free ranging, and wild marine mammals are dragged into captivity “humanely.” If indeed dolphin captures are “humane,” then why doesn’t Dolphin Fantaseas let the public and the media witness and videotape these captures and judge for themselves? The answer is obvious: Withholding the gruesome truth from the public is the only way this company can survive and continue to profit.
Having spent the last forty years working with dolphins, I have reached the conclusion that these are complex and self aware creatures. They routinely make choices and decisions regarding the details of their own lives. They are entitled to freedom of choice; thus they are entitled to freedom. Capturing them and dragging them into a cage in St Lucia to line the pockets of a few business people is simply wrong. The dolphins that have been swimming wild and free in the waters of St Lucia for thousands of years are your national treasures. Please don’t let the dolphin trading business Dolphin Fantaseas spoil and exploit them.
I fully agree with Dolphin Fantaseas that the wild dolphins of St Lucia need protection. They need protection from the very people who are seeking to capture and confine them: Dolphin Fantaseas.
I pray that the St Lucia government will refuse to issue the necessary permits for the capture and confinement of dolphins as recommended by the St Lucia Animal Protection Society, St Lucia Whale and Dolphin Watching Association, St Lucia Heritage Tourism Programme, Eastern Caribbean Coalition for Environmental Awareness, St Lucia Naturalist Society and, most recently, the St Lucia National Trust.
In an article published in the St Lucia STAR October 12, the St Lucia National Trust says: “The St Lucia Trust will only support wild animals in captivity if there is a compelling argument of conservation to protect an endangered species or a strong research component the results of which are used to understand the life cycle of the animals and to improve their health.”
I highly commend the conclusion reached by the St Lucia National Trust. It is a conclusion that is based on the simple yet imperative acknowledgement that the desire to make a profit must not take precedence over the best interest of the animal species: “Neither of these prerequisites exist in this case and we therefore cannot support the implementation of this project in St Lucia.”
I would like to congratulate the St Lucia National Trust for taking the dolphins’ best interest at heart regarding their position on the proposed captive dolphin facility in St Lucia.
While several other Caribbean islands have established, or are contemplating to establish, a captive dolphin facility in order to attract more tourists dollars, the National Trust of St Lucia has sent a clear and positive message to the rest of the world about your country’s respect for nature.
And that is something money can’t buy.


Time to help children is now

I have been reading the news about Vincent McDoom and how he brought the plight of abused children in St Lucia into the headlines.
While I am delighted that the issue is being spoken about, I am terribly disappointed at the turn most of the dialogue has taken. For the most part, what was supposed to spur national interest and start serious dialogue to address the issue of abuse to children has, for the most part, deteriorated into a sensational finger pointing, mud-slinging blame game. That approach is not healthy, nor is it helping anyone, least of all the children.
People, we are losing sight of the real issues facing St Lucia: the abuse of children and what to do about it; how to stop it; what should the statute of limitations be in cases of abuse; should someone be found guilty of abusing a minor, what should the punishment be; what should be done to educate the public as to the seriousness of the abuse of children given that it happens more often than most people realise; and should there be a support group for abused children and their families.
While I agree that sometimes one needs some sensation to bring attention to an issue and to get it in the minds of a society, there is also a point at which that sensationalism has done its job and the serious dialogue starts. The time for serious dialogue on the issue has come. Let us start dealing with the issue itself.
Vincent is dealing with, or rather has dealt with, his “demons” as pastor Tommy put it. Vincent simply wants to make sure that perpetrators of such crimes are not sheltered by our society and that this sort of crime does not claim another innocent victim.
When we have little girls as young as ten years old giving birth and young boys and girls being raped by the very adults they look up to for love, comfort, guidance and reassurance, it is time for society to act collectively to stomp out the problem and make this society a safer, kinder and better place for our children. Our future deserves nothing less. We owe it to them, we have a responsibility to ensure their welfare.
The people who are busy pointing fingers and calling names and passing judgement are missing the point. If one genuinely wants to help the kids and our society, then they need to join the cause for our children and stop lashing out at Vincent and those who support him. Vincent is using his gift, his talent, his notoriety, and the media to make a difference and to do something meaningful to help protect our children from the sickening and serious problem of sexual child abuse.
Stop missing the message, stop attacking the messenger. Vincent was not looking for a date or asking for sex, nor was he discussing his sexuality. He was addressing the abuse of children. Let us separate his personal life from his professional, charitable and altruistic life. He is asking us all to help stop the abuse of our children and, regardless of who he is, or how you might feel about him, the message is important and that is what matters.
With reactions like what we have witnessed, small wonder that victims of sexual abuse are usually too ashamed and scared to say anything or tell anyone. The victims are made to feel like they are the ones with the problem and that they should shut up. Throughout history if people had not taken up the causes they believed in and felt and/or knew were wrong, the world would be worse off than it is today. While I am not putting these issues in the same light or at the same level as the issue at hand, just imagine if the abolitionist did not start the anti-slavery movement; or if no one had fought for the rights of women, who were second class citizens in most of the world not too long ago. What if Nelson Mandela had not fought for what he believed in? Or Martin Luther King Jr had not fought for what he believed in; Gandhi had not taken up his cause; and how can we forget Toussaint L’Ouverture of Haiti, Nanny and the Maroons in Jamaica, Alexander Bustamante and the many other Caribbean heroes? Even the independence of our island was the work of people who took up a cause they believed to be in the best interest of the populace and fought for it. It is time for all the decent people in this nation to take up this cause.
Like the St Lucia national anthem says, help protect our kids from “foe” and help our society embrace “justice, truth and charity” and make these our “ideals”.
Somewhere on this island a child is whispering ‘Help, I am being violated’ and there is no one there to help. We have failed another young life. Our children are waiting. Will we allow another kid to be violated? It may be happening right now. Who will stop it? Is it a politician, a judge, a lawyer, a pastor, a teacher, a doctor, a policeman/woman, or another heroic citizen? Sometimes, if one is not part of the solution, one is usually part of the problem. The children are waiting for help. Who will reach out? Who will stop the violation of our children?